The Silent Dustman

Gallery opened 30 May 2021

Updated 16 June 2021

Yet more on Spencer system added
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Left: An advert for the Hyrovakum Silent Dustman: Nov 1912

The Hyrovakum Silent Dustman was a vacuum cleaner system powered by the water supply. Information is in short supply, but it seems the system appeared in London in 1910, where it was installed in several large hotels, and was powered by The London High-Pressure Water Network. The water operated a jet vacuum pump somewhere suitably tucked away, and the vacuum piped around the building. The water was then run to waste, taking the vacuumed-up dirt with it. The Silent Dustman was in operation up to 1937; it was so-called because the vacuum pump made very little noise.

This advert comes from Auckland in New Zealand. It is the only image known. The text suggests that the Dustman could be powered from ordinary water mains. No other vacuum system using water power has been discovered so far, though obviously they could be used where electricity was not available.

Such installations still exist today, being called Central Vacuum Cleaner systems. They are electrically powered.

Source: Progress, Volume Vii Issue 3, 1 November 1912, p166.

There is some fascinating stuff about central vacuum sysytems in Galicia here. Lviv (Ukrainian) is the largest city in western Ukraine and the seventh-largest city in the country overall. The German name was Lemberg.

Left: An advert for the Arco Wand central vacuum system: Nov 1919

This more closely resembles the modern central vacuum systems. The vacuum is created by an electrically-driven blower, seen here just behind the dust receiver in the basement.

There is an account of finding a 1915 Arco Wand installation here.

Left: Another ad for the Arco Wand central vacuum system: circa 1919

The vacuum is created by an electrically-driven pump, (behind the dust receiver) in the basement, but what sort of pump? The one shown here does not appear to be a centrifugal blower, as you would expect the suction line to go into the casing axially. Some hints have been found that a positive-displacement pump of some kind was used, but nothing firm has been found so far.

Left: Ad for the Spencer central vacuum system: circa 1919

Spencer were one of the major players in the market for large central vacuum systems. The word 'turbine' seems inappropriate for what was presumably some sort of multi-stage axial pump. Their largest model had a 30-horsepower electric motor and 12 sweepers could be used simultaneously; very adapted to large hotels, etc.

You can read a great deal more about the Spencer system here. You need to scroll down a bit.

Left: Ad for the Spencer central vacuum system: circa 1919

Some finely graded central vacuum units.

Left: Ad for the Spencer central vacuum system: circa 1919

Note the natty gent lurking behind the suction unit.

The Spencer company claimed that the only points of friction were the top and bottom bearings, implying that the 'turbine' was an axial pump wherein the blades did not contact the outer casing.

The Silent Dustman remains the only water-powered central vacuum system found so far.

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